NASCAR & Auto Racing

‘It’s insane’: How Scott Pruett of Auburn is still racing at 57 – and winning

Hall of Fame race car driver Scott Pruett sits at his desk at his Auburn home on Tuesday.
Hall of Fame race car driver Scott Pruett sits at his desk at his Auburn home on Tuesday. rpench@sacbee.com

Scott Pruett refuses to slow down.

At 57, he’s still racing sports cars on the national circuit, currently as part of the International Motor Sports Association’s top series. To cap off a summer that saw him inducted into two racing Halls of Fame, Pruett competes Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, adding to his already awesome career statistics.

“I’m in fairly rare air,” said Pruett, who makes his home in Auburn. “There are not many athletes putting up those kind of numbers in the twilight of their career.”

In the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, he’ll drive the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 for 3GT Racing in Sunday’s featured America’s Tire 250, part of the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.

The greatest race car driver to come out of Roseville – or the whole Sacramento area – Pruett continues to find success on the track, adding to his already awesome career statistics. America’s most-decorated sports car racer, Pruett’s more than 60 wins are a record, and he has five championships and a record-tying five Rolex 24 at Daytona victories.

Beside his sports car success, he competed several seasons in what’s now IndyCar and NASCAR’s Cup series. He’s one of the few drivers to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 during his career. In the 1989 Indy 500, he earned Rookie of the Year.

“(My) longevity? It’s insane,” said Pruett, who started racing go-karts at Lodi when he was only 8 years old. “But if I wasn’t performing well, I wouldn’t be racing. Any professional athlete, if you’re not putting up the numbers, you’re out.”

In June, he was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and, as racing’s ultimate compliment, the Motorsports Hall of Fame at Daytona International Speedway.

“At Daytona, the induction was part of a three-day event,” Pruett said. “It was exciting and also quite humbling. So, many people were there to show their support – Danny Sullivan, Hurley Haywood, Al Unser Sr., Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and on and on. So many great drivers. I was truly honored.”

Pruett still enjoys racing, particularly sports cars. After several seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing, he joined the Lexus team two years ago.

“Our series now has 11 manufacturers,” he said. “(As a carmaker), Lexus went from pure luxury to luxury and performance. If you have a high-performance car, you’ve got to go racing. In this series, it’s the best against the best. We have to prove ourselves against Ferrari, BMW, Audi-Porsche, Lamborghini. That’s really fun.”

As the circuit’s senior driver, Pruett serves as a mentor as well as teammate.

“My teammates – Sage Karam (age 22) and Jack Hawksworth (26) – are my kids’ age,” Pruett said. “That seems crazy to me.”

Now, he’s enjoying watching the development of two young stars who started here, NASCAR sensation Kyle Larson of Elk Grove and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi of Nevada City.

“With Ganassi, I was Kyle’s teammate,” he said. “We raced together at the Rolex 24. I don’t want to say I saw him first, but I’ve been watching him since he was a kid. I’ve seen his whole development. I think he’s an incredible talent. You’re now seeing his maturity at such a young age.

“And Alex? He’s certainly found a niche in IndyCar,” he said. “It’s so wonderful to watch two young American drivers – and they’re both from here.”

As for retirement? “I definitely have more racing through my rear view mirror than my windshield,” Pruett said. “People keep asking me about that, but I’ll know when it’s time.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix

  • Where: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, 1021 Monterey-Salinas Hwy., Salinas
  • When: Sunday, Sept. 24; America’s Tire 250 starts at 2 p.m.
  • Admission: $50-$70; parking, $30
  • TV: Sunday, 2 p.m., FS1
  • More information: 831-242-8201, www.MazdaRaceway.com
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